Yellowstone’s annual “Vital Signs,” “Wolf report,” and “Bird report” are now available

Valuable wildlife reports can be downloaded by the public-

While it might seem — it might be true — that most politicians and many of the public get all their knowledge about Yellowstone from “urban” legends, interest groups, and lobbyists, there is a segment that read scientific reports and, especially the summaries of naturalist’s observations, and summaries of scientific papers in the Park.

Two of these are now newly available by a mere download.  There is the 2012 wolf report at and the 2012 bird report at There is also the 2013 Yellowstone “Vital Signs” report (“Natural and Cultural Resources”)

There are also many other reports about Park wildlife for the educated layperson at the more general URL

The Park is has issued a news release on the three reports referred to above.

“Yellowstone’s Ecological Health Revealed In Updated Reports”

News Release. Dec 10, 2013

Yellowstone’s Ecological Health Revealed In Updated Reports

Yellowstone National Park’s 2013 “Natural Resource Vital Signs” report and annual wolf and bird project reports are now available as valuable tools used to assist park managers and scientists more fully understand the status of important indicators of resource condition.

In the Vital Signs report, park scientists and their cooperators report on data from more than two dozen indicators to study the influences, both inside and outside of the park, that affect Yellowstone’s overall ecological status and the condition of cultural resources. Ecological indicators include ecosystem processes such as wildland fire, as well as the status of native species and stressors such as wildlife disease and non-native species.

This year, several indicators on the status of Yellowstone’s cultural resources were included. As the world’s first national park, rich in America’s history, the National Park Service steward and continue to use an incredible collection of over 800 historical structures that help tell the story of transportation, lodging, and park management. The park also contains more than 1,600 known archeological sites that demonstrate at least 10,000 years of evidence showing deep human connections with the ecosystems. Hundreds of thousands of historic documents, ethnographic artifacts, fossils, pieces of clothing, souvenirs, and works of art also reside in the park’s museum collections, providing priceless data and precious stories on the park’s rich history.

All three reports, published by the park’s Yellowstone Center for Resources, help inform resource management decisions and support ongoing and future research needs.

Highlights from this year’s Vital Signs report include:

• Climate: Precipitation data suggest that we are still in a long-term drought. Recent data support a continued trend of warming with average low temperatures increasing by 4.6 degrees since 1989.
 Bears: Grizzly bear numbers appear to be stable in the GYE this year; supporting recent discussion that bears have reached carrying capacity in the ecosystem.
• Wolves and elk: Elk surveyed along the northern range of Yellowstone continued to decline as a result of multiple factors, but show signs of stabilizing at a new low. The number of wolves that spend most of their time in Yellowstone declined slightly.
• Bison: The conservation of Yellowstone bison continues to be successful with population number s over 4,000 bison.
• Historic structure conditions and archeological sites: Historic structure assessments of the 880 buildings, roads, bridges, and grave markers have been completed for 80 percent of the sites. About 77 percent of historic structures and 65 percent of known archeological sites are in “good” condition.
• Native fish: There are signs that the number of Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake is increasing. Efforts to reduce the population of non-native lake trout have resulted in the removal of over 1 million lake trout from Yellowstone Lake. Arctic grayling and westslope cutthroat trout restoration efforts began in 2013 as part of the native fish preservation effort.




  1. The Wilderness Guy Avatar
    The Wilderness Guy

    Thanks Ralph,

    These should be the only reports that actually matter. Great reads! I always look forward to these reports.

  2. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I love the title! This is great, I’ll be sure to read about Yellowstone’s Vital Signs.

  3. Kayla Avatar

    Thanks Ralph!

    Now do always love looking thru and reading these reports. Wishing You the Best!

  4. Leslie Avatar

    Ralph, I see this wolf report is for 2012. So it takes a full year till the previous year report is out? This report states a decline of breeding pairs to 6 from 8 in 2011. YNP must have at least 5 breeding pairs or WY is relisted. What will 2013’s report bring. The WG&F report will be out in the spring. In that report will be Yellowstones wolf numbers for 2013.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      They generally release the annual reports for the previous year in March.

  5. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Four thousand Bison in Yellowstone are far too many. The grasses in the Lamar Valley and in the Little America-Slough Creek areas were grazed down to the dirt by mid October by Bison this year. Small gullies are starting to form and cheat grass is getting established.
    Substituting an over grazed by Bison ecosystem for the previous over grazed by Elk ecosystem does not make sense.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Larry Thorngren,

      I have been expecting this, and it isn’t the first time such a peak has been reached with the bison.

      If the grizzly population collapses after delisting, as a last resort, they could be fed by shooting maybe a couple hundred bison in the Park a year.

      1. SaveBears Avatar


        I don’t think a culling exercise on Bison would go any better than the Elk culls that went on in the past, it would probably create quite an uproar.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          SaveBears (Donald J. Jackson),

          I didn’t refer to a “cull” of bison. I said as a last ditch effort if the Yellowstone grizzly population drops due to lack of food after delisting, then shooting a small percentage of Park bison and leaving the carcass as food might work. It is obvious that every dead adult bison in Yellowstone becomes a significant, if brief, ecosystem, feeding bears, wolves, and many other mammals, birds, insects.

          I didn’t advocate this. I wrote about a possibility.

          1. Donald J. Jackson Avatar
            Donald J. Jackson


            I did not say you were advocating this.

            I just see if the park service tried to put a plan like this together, it would be a mess. After all of the efforts to stop the killing of bison that wander outside the park, them doing it inside the park would really create an uproar.

            If the population needs to be reduced a much better solution is to move them to the areas that want them, such as happened a few months ago, Now if the DOL in Montana would just pull their head out of their ass.


Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan